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Interview Bengali

Governments don't want people to exercise their brains: Rwitobroto Mukherjee

Rwitobroto Mukherjee, who plays a teenager who becomes a detective in Mainak Bhaumik's next film Goyenda Junior, talks about the film and movies in general.

Roushni Sarkar

Rwitobroto Mukherjee will be seen as the protagonist Bikram in Mainak Bhaumik’s first detective venture Goyenda Junior, which is slated for release on 20 September. Goyenda Junior more or less features the same cast from Bhaumik’s Generation Aami (2018), including Santilal Mukherjee, Pushan Dasgupta and Anusha Viswanathan.

According to Bhaumik, Goyenda Junior is a sort of continuation of a teenager’s saga from Generation Aami and also a journey of the protagonist’s metamorphosis into a detective.

In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, Rwitobroto Mukherjee shared his experience of working in the film, his thoughts on his director’s inspiration for the story, and the general inclination towards thrillers and detective stories in Bengali cinema today. Excerpts:

How was the experience of shooting Goyenda Junior?

I was looking forward to working with Mainak-da again after Generation Aami because it is so much fun to work with him. We don’t really share an actor-director professional relationship. He is like my elder brother. I can always go up to him and we also hang out together often.

Quite like the experience of Generation Aami, shooting for Goyenda Junior was almost like a picnic. Also, one tends to become addicted to the independence Mainak-da gives his artistes on the floor. It is quite rare to get such freedom to develop a character on my own.

The cast of Goyenda Junior is more or less the same as that of Generation Aami. What was your takeaway from working with your co-stars this time?

Mainak Bhaumik is not bothered by industry trends once he decides to make a film

Mainak-da had other options for casting, but everyone had opinions like nobody else could be more suited to the character enacted by Baba (Santilal Mukherjee). People also had similar opinions for Pushan and Anusha’s characters. Mainak-da was initially sceptical about repeating the cast. So I told him to replace one of the actors, that will help to bring an overall change; I told him to replace me. However, I think all of us became more of a family and, most importantly, we all worked well in Generation Aami. It was almost like a revisit of that film.

Did you ever want to become a detective while reading the stories? How did you perceive the character of Bikram, who gradually becomes a detective in the film?

I think we Bengali kids have been so loaded with detective and thriller literature that all of us while reading them have grown into a detective at some point of time. I think these detective and adventure stories are part of our culture. I always get engrossed in any story or film while I am reading or watching it. My parents also say that it doesn’t take much time for me to become a part of a piece of fiction. I remember shooting random things with my friends imagining them to be part of an adventure, with the digital camera that I had. Besides, I always enjoy thrillers — the chase and action sequences in them, the entire experience is quite exciting for me. Mainak-da’s script was also quite intriguing and I could get engrossed in it while reading.

Generation Aami explored various issues of teenagers and so does Goyenda Junior. Did you relate with the crises of Bikram personally?

No, because Bikram is an orphan who lost his parents in an accident. He is an introvert, shy and soft-spoken. He often gets bullied in school, but at the same time he is bright and intelligent. He is not a detective like Feluda or Byomkesh; neither does his character resemble Tatar or Gogol. He is a school student who is very sharp and can solve problems. He happens to get involved in a crime and thus his journey towards becoming a detective begins.

The story also focuses on Bikram’s issues while growing up. He has to face various issues both at school and in his home. He also likes a girl in his class. I think the problems the protagonist had to face in Generation Aami were more generalized, but Bikram’s case is unique.

Mainak Bhaumik said Goyenda Junior is also a culmination of not being able to adapt Pandav Goenda in a contemporary context.

Yes, I also read about that long ago in a report. See, all this literature was written following a certain kind of style in those days. Now, they are being presented in a more modern and stylized version. Parambrata Chatterjee’s Feluda web-series and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock series are proof of that. I believe the perspective towards a smartly made thriller has changed over the years. The audience is not accepting the simplified format of a whodunnit. The only exceptions may be Byomkesh Bakshi and Feluda. These two characters still do not fail to amaze the audience. Hence, had Mainak-da made Pandav Goenda keeping the authentic flavour, it would have been redundant for the audience of this generation. Directors now have to keep in mind that endless number of thrillers are being made for Netflix, Amazon Prime and many other platforms.

However, keeping the spirit of Pandav Goenda alive, Mainak-da has made a smart film fit for 2019, which can be enjoyed on mobile phones as well.

But there is no dearth of thrillers and detective films in Bengali cinema. Why do you think people would still love to watch Goyenda Junior?

Though many thrillers are being made, I feel the Bengali audience needs to go through a lot more upgradation to experience thrillers of international standard. For example, Narcos will appeal to a college student much more than to a common Bengali audience. Yes, there are many films being made, but among them only a few films like Guptodhoner Sondhane (2018) or Byomkesh Gowtro (2018) stand out. I sincerely believe that a well-made film has good viewership, irrespective of genre.

I think Goyenda Junior is a tribute to all the detectives within us. Especially Bengalis carry these Goyenda selves within themselves quite naturally. The film doesn’t have any unnecessary segment, it has a sleek form.

The question might sound a bit repetitive, but why do you think there is a rush to make detective and thriller films? Why not, say, realistic dramas?

I once heard Mainak-da saying that people these days lead quite a mechanical life and at the end of day they only look for pure entertainment. That’s why people these days hardly attend plays on serious issues. Plays having a star cast alone have houseful shows, otherwise the audience gets bored and finds it better to go through Facebook sitting in the first row. Same happens with films on serious issues that are only surviving due to digital platforms.

People are generally frustrated these days and do not want to increase their emotional burden by watching misery and crises in realistic films. The audience does not really want to add three more problems at night after facing hundreds of them for the entire day. They are much more relieved if they can stay detached after watching a film.

Anyway, these days crafts have turned into a leisure activity. As actors are not serious about their craft, the audience is also not bothered about learning the language of cinema. Either many stupid films are being made or very complex issues are being fed through films with a rather generalized language, not going into the nuances. People are more comfortable when the subject is simplified.

I think a general degradation has descended on every field. People have stopped reading books. They don’t have so much patience and don’t want to put effort into anything. The audience comes to watch a play without having done any homework. It is good as long as they come to watch the play, but it is better if they have put in a bit of effort in educating themselves. I also think the degradation is government-induced; people in power don’t want us to exercise our brains.